Hella Nuts Eatery attracts a huge following in the Oakland, Calif., area due to two food innovators in the culinary world, chefs Meiko Scott and Kami Quinones. These two chefs are leaning into a growing trend for meat-based alternative products at the eatery, with new popular dishes like a plant-based BBQ plate, a mushroom-based sandwich and a patent-pending walnut meat that resembles ground beef.

The walnut meat is a big star at the Hella Nuts Eatery, where it shines in tacos, pasta, plant-based burgers, shepherd’s pie, pizzas, burritos, stuffed bell peppers and an array of other dishes. The chefs unveiled the alternative, plant-based walnut meat to patrons at festivals and pop-up locations, and they had immediate success with the cooked product. A recent comment on the Hella Nuts website said, “Being a meat-eater for most of my life, this stuff (walnut meat) is a game changer! The last few months I’ve been focusing on a more vegetarian-based diet and this product makes it incredibly easy to do so!” 

With a hearty buzz in the Oakland area, Hella Nuts wanted an innovative package to match the popularity of the new vegetarian product, as the company identified growth in local retail stores and for direct-to-customer sales via online. Plus, this new package had to meet the company’s strong sustainability value set. The result produced a 1- and 3-lb stand-up pouch made of polyethylene film but with post-consumer recycled (PCR) material present in each film layer. 

Less is More with Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Material

From the onset of the product package design, Hella Nuts wanted to reduce its carbon footprint as much as possible. “We were looking for a supplier that had eco-friendly packaging and someone local, since we want to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Quinones. “With ePac, we found a local packager in California that had eco-sourced packaging.” ePac Flexible Packaging, a company serving small-to-medium-sized businesses, has manufacturing operations throughout the U.S., Canada, the UK and Asia Pacific. ePac offers high-definition custom printing and the elimination of plate fees via its HP Indigo 20000 digital printing technology and business model. 

Hella Nuts and ePac pursued a sustainable packaging solution, and this eventually led to post-consumer recycled (PCR) material over recyclable packaging. “Recyclable packaging has to be taken to a specific location and it becomes the responsibility of consumers, and this was too complicated,” says Quinones. PCR material is made from items that consumers recycle every day, such as aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper and plastic bottles. These materials are collected by local recycling programs and are shipped to recycling facilities to be sorted into bales, based on the material. “We were happy to see that ePac was offering an eco-friendly product because we weren’t finding many suppliers that offered PCR,” says Quinones.

The stand-up pouch packaging for the walnut meat product is a PCR film structure composed of PET and polyethylene. The outer print film layer is .48 mil, while the inner white polyethylene film is 3.5 mil and produces a total thickness of 4.0 mil. for the PCR pouch. PCR is used in each film layer with varying percentages. Hella Nuts began selling the frozen ground walnut meat in 1- and 3-lb stand-up pouches in April of 2020, with the same packaging being used to fulfill direct-to-consumer orders from the company’s website. 

With ePac, Hella Nuts enjoys variable data printing, shorter run lengths and high-end graphics due to the HP Indigo spot colors and press. The digital press at ePac reproduces over 97% of PANTONE colors via its HP IndiChrome 4-, 6- and 7- color emulations. According to ePac, the company can designate an ink “recipe” or formula to match specific colors for our customers. “The graphics came out perfectly and the colors are super vibrant,” says Quinones. “The bags are bigger than anticipated, but the size of the packaging allows our messaging to fit without the type being too small.” 

Future Sales 

Since the expansion of its direct-to-consumer business, the food producer indicates that 75% of all online orders are coming from out of state. “We see that packaging is the most important thing ever,” says Quinones. “People have been posting photos of the packaging, which spurs more orders for us because most haven’t tried the meat.” 

Besides selling online, Hella Nuts is now offering walnut meat in the refrigerated section at Berkeley Bowl Supermarket and the Butcher’s Son Delicatessen and Bakery in the Oakland area. As Hella Nuts shows, embracing green values can be fun with creative graphics on PCR flexible pouch that features a new innovative food product.

For more information, visit ePac Flexible Packaging online or call 844-213-8020.